Death On The Balcony's Paul Hargreaves Talks Disco, Success, and the Magicbag Label
We here at Crossfade pride ourselves on breaking new international talent ahead of their debut Miami performances. And UK disco-house sensations Death On The Balcony are one act we've been following closely all year in anticipation of its first apperance this side of the pond.
DOTB hails from Leeds, where its Paradise Garage-inspired Throwback club night features regular guest heavyweights like Soul Clap, Mark E, and The Revenge. And with a soulful crowd-pleasing take on nu-disco and deep house, the duo's original output on labels like Airdrop, Akbal, and its own Magicbag imprint has also been making major waves.
We caught up with Paul Hargreaves of DOTB in advance of the duo's debut performance at the Electric Pickle this Saturday.
Crossfade: Who is Death on the Balcony and how did the collaboration first come about?
Paul Hargreaves: Death on the Balcony is Mark Caramelli and Paul Hargreaves. We met through mutual friends and playing at after-parties in Leeds in 2005-2006. We hung out, partied and found mutual interests in music, sharing a love for house, techno, disco, new wave, and electro-pop of the '70s and 80's. We both had been working on music and productions individually and part of other projects so decided to start producing some tracks together and see what happens. 5 years later, here we are.
What's the story behind your name?
Well the name was created after we were on a night out in 2005-20006 in Leeds. We were at a gig and witnessed something pretty dark. We won't go into the details! The next day we were scheduled to start work together on a project in the studio and we were having a deep conversation about life and death on the balcony of my old apartment in Leeds.
What can you tell us about the scene in Leeds? How has it shaped your musical sensibilities and sound?
Leeds has had a vibrant scene in house music from way back in the '90s. Nights like Hard Times and Back to Basics have been hugely influential to partygoers, DJs, producers and promoters who live and have lived in this city so it is an inspiring place to live. It is only a relatively small place in comparison to London so there is a definite community feel to it. There are numerous parties and consistently quality guests visiting week in, week out which provide for healthy competition and top-class entertainment for everyone who lives here! As far as shaping our sound, we have a wealth of different inspirations musically past and present but Leeds has definitely played its part.
You guys are certainly old souls when it comes to bringing back those old forgotten jams. Where does this appreciation for the past come from and where do you go crate digging?
Those old jams and influences you pick up and hear when you're growing up have been something we have bonded over from the day we met, so it only seems natural that those tracks play a part in the music that we produce and play today. Disco, soul, funk music from the '70s and '80s and new wave and synth pop from the '80s have been a huge inspiration to our sound as well as the early pioneers of the house movement in the late '80s-early '90s. With any type of music that you feel passionate about it feels inspiring and cathartic to trace things back. We find our inspirations, music and vinyl here, there and everywhere -- promo sites and promos sent, demos and edits sent, online vinyl and digital shops. Love record shops -- shame they're a dying breed -- second-hand and charity shops, record fairs, Soundcloud, Youtube, etc.
You've brought lots of international talent through Leeds for your regular Throwback parties. What have been some of the highlights?
The last party we threw we had Metro Area and Crazy P headline with support from us and PBR Streetgang. We had a really busy night and all the DJs were awesome. We also had Jacques Renault over for our first birthday recently -- great DJ and a total dude! Then if we go back to the first party we had Eli and Charlie of Soul Clap come to kick things off for us. It was definitely a fitting start and a fun party as our neighbours found out when we piled back to ours for the afters!
What was the turning point for you guys going from local DJs to internationally-charted production duo?
We have slightly different paths in how long we have been doing this as Mark is 32 and started DJing and buying vinyl (disco, house, deep techno) back in '92-'93, hugely influenced from early clubbing experiences at the infamous Haçienda in Manchester, so has quite a collection & knowledge and I am 26 and came from a more band-based background into DJing and producing dance music. Together we have held residencies and played gigs in and around Leeds and Manchester for around 5 years, originally for a party called Dirty Disco (R.I.P.) Then we moved onto focusing on creating our Throwback brand when Dirty Disco finished 18 months ago. We held down some bar gigs too, to pay our way and leave us time to create music. It is really the music that has spread our name and message further afield. We steadily started to gain gigs throughout the rest of the UK. We then got releases out with Airdrop (NYC/Berlin), Akbal Music (Mexico) and our own label Magicbag, and grew from there. We really started to notice things picking up internationally when we dropped "Cruel Banana", our edit of Bananarama's "Cruel Summer" on Soul Clap's V.A FreEP and also the podcast we did for them. We actually had owed them a podcast for months and we finally pulled one out of the bag and they loved it! The adventures of Soul Clap podcast was such a great platform to release on and we felt very privileged to have been asked for one. The feedback we received from it was amazing, we still get messages now asking for tracks from it!
What prompted you to launch Magicbag, and what do you have in store for the label?
We have two other partners in the label Magicbag Music, Dan Blackledge and Simon Lister. We launched it as a vehicle to get our own music out and also that of a few producers who were coming up with some great sounds. At the moment we are on to our fifth release. The emphasis is put on quality and not quantity with Magicbag, as we want each release to stand up to the last. Our next release hasn't been decided yet, so can't comment just yet on the future releases. Another thing perhaps to mention here is that we are looking to start another imprint later this year called Vice & Virtue Recordings. The wheels are in motion to plan this so watch this space for future info on both labels.
What is your creative process in the studio and what do each of you bring to the table individually?
We have a very relaxed, social and sometimes spontaneous way of working. Honesty is key in any studio partnership, so one of us will come up with an idea, loop, hook or starting point, then air it to the other. If we both vibe off it, we will then build the idea together. Sometimes one will do more than the other on one track and vice versa, but the key is that we both have our say and we both like it. We both enjoy playing keys, sampling, making beats, whatever. The important thing is not who's playing it or got their hand on the mouse, but that the part is played well and the track works as a whole, and most importantly that it makes people groove and they feel it on the dancefloor!
What do you have going on for the rest of 2011?
After the American tour we will be doing dates in Barcelona around Sonar week, Hideout Festival and Garden Festival in Croatia, playing after the Human League gig in Leeds, at the Magic Lounge about festival, Berlin, Paris, and Switzerland. Continuing holding our monthly party in London called Emmanuelle's Party Bucket and also planning our Throwback parties for autumn. We have plans to work with Slowpoke promoter Jaime Ritchie and the fabulous girl duo Moustache Mamas on a sporadic London party too. Release-wise we have an EP for Jef K's label Silver Network with Robert James and Jef K remixes, an Airdrop EP with Mark E remix, a track on a Catz 'N Dogz compilation remixed by Maceo Plex, plus releases and remixes on ISM, Illusion Records and Development Music. We are keeping pretty busy making new stuff and getting ideas all the time so will be making sure we are in the studio whenever we can.
How did you hook up with the Slowpoke crew and what can Miami expect during your debut performance at the Electric Pickle?
We met Jaime at TBAR in London through a mutual friend and got on really well with her. We kept in touch with her and kept her up to date with all our new mixes, releases, etc. When she started Slowpoke with Brian Monaco they got in touch with us and asked us to play at the party in London with Trickski. The gig went really well then they asked us to represent and play for them in Miami for their first party at the Pickle, so we were more than happy to be part of the line up with Droog and Slowpoke residents. From our set expect a mix of quality house and disco, old and new, aimed firmly at the danceflloor with the odd surprise and a twinkle in our eye!
Death On The Balcony with Brian Monaco and Droog. Saturday, May 14. Electric Pickle, 2826
N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. Call 305-456-5613 or
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